Saturday, March 3, 2018

Alien Weirdness In X2 Castle Amber By Tom Moldvay As Old School Campaign Set Up

Its Saturday six thirty A.M. in the morning, we've come through a rather nasty Nor Easter here in Connecticut & most of New England. The wife is quietly sleeping & we've had a relatively good time of it compared to some folks in New England. I busted out the Clark Ashton Smith again this time his "Captain Volmar" sequence of novels offers a stark contrast to 'the devil may' care attitude of Edgar Rice Burroughs's characters  that's been crossing my literary palette as of late. 
"Marooned in Andromeda", the first entry in his "Captain Volmar" sequence, was the cover story in the October 1930 issue of Wonder Stories. illustrated by Frank R. Paul" 

 In my mind the "Captain Volmar" sequence of novels by CAS take place in the same universe as his Mars stories on a post Colonial Mars with its fading grandeur & strange alien Martians quietly watching the humans colonists arriving. They secretly know that their planet wide god will be waking up in the eons to come.
Vulthoom is a part of the greater Great Old One seen in both Dweller in the Gulf, The (1933) &  Seedling of Mars or The Planet Entity.  All of CAS's Martian sequence slot into his  "Captain Volmar" stories nicely giving a deadly far future timeline & one that I've coupled with events in my 'Old Earth' campaign sequence.

The commercial metropolis of Mars - Igarth, with its 'old quarter' has in my mind stood in the long shadow of Edgar Rice Burroughs Helium. CAS's Mars material was more compelling because it brought a back alley alieness to the Martian landscape.

At first this doesn't seem likely that the events of the "Captain Volmar" or the Mars cycles would have anything to do with a Dungeons & Dragons style game. But this Clark Ashton Smith given the length & breath of the man's imagination its not hard to connect the puzzle pieces here. Puzzle pieces that could connect back into some of my other ideas. Imagine if you will that your adventurers wander into
Tom Moldvay's Clark Ashton Smith's love letter adventure X2: Castle Amber (Chateau d' Amberville) during the Thirty Years War.
"Trapped in the mysterious Castle Amber, you find yourselves cut off form the world you know. The castle is fraught with peril. Members of the strange Amber family, some insane, some merely deadly, lurk around every corner. Somewhere in the castle is the key to your escape, but can you survive long enough to find it? "

Not only does the party find itself at the mercy of the forces of the Amber clan but its also possible that they might have their backs against the events of the Bohemian Revolt.

"Without heirs, Emperor Matthias sought to assure an orderly transition during his lifetime by having his dynastic heir (the fiercely Catholic Ferdinand of Styria, later Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor) elected to the separate royal thrones of Bohemia and Hungary.[30] Some of the Protestant leaders of Bohemia feared they would be losing the religious rights granted to them by Emperor Rudolf II in his Letter of Majesty (1609). They preferred the Protestant Frederick V, elector of the Palatinate (successor of Frederick IV, the creator of the Protestant Union).[31] However, other Protestants supported the stance taken by the Catholics,[32] and in 1617, Ferdinand was duly elected by the Bohemian Estates to become the crown prince, and automatically upon the death of Matthias, the next king of Bohemia."

We know that Stephen Amber was dabbling in forbidden magicks but perhaps he had stumbled upon an ancient Elven gateway deep within the catacombs of Château d'Amberville. Could some of the sources of his forbidden magicks in fact be the Great Old One Vulthoom?
The Averoigne stories of Clark Ashton Smith use many traditional mythological elements in twisted & Weird Tales ways. Could the Fey creatures seen  throughout X2: Castle Amber (Chateau d' Amberville) actually be merely the Fairyland root extensions of the forbidden plant god?
I've used both Dark Albion & Cults of Chaos's OSR tool kits to set up & flesh out much of the backgrounds of the various cults & what not within my own home games. Those venturing into
Chateau d' Amberville are not simply risking the encounters in the adventure location but the forces of both the Protestant & Catholic churches. Anyone wandering into Chateau d' Amberville is risking the time lost curse of the place & perhaps its forbidden weirdness just outside its walls.

X2: Castle Amber (Chateau d' Amberville) is a fairly timeless module & gives the DM a solid module to customize to their own home campaigns. The Chateau d' Amberville is steeped deeply in the occult & dangerous timelessness of the chaotic nature of Fairyland already. Blood thirst pagan cults outside its walls & dangerous fairies within its woods make
X2: Castle Amber (Chateau d' Amberville) highly adaptive. The fact that the module is connected with Clark Ashton Smith is a bonus.

The Edgar Allen Poe events of the module could trap a wide variety of time lost travelers & adventurers within its mad Fairyland location making X2 an adventure campaign point. This could move PC's from the Lion & Dragon retroclone game over into the events of Dark Albion with the forces of Fairy making a chess game of the player's PC's.

We'll get into the hows & why's of Fairyland's alien chaos cult in our next blog entry!

"The feet of animals, if not of men, had continued the path they were following, and had made an easy way into the wood of fabulous evil. The drooping boughs enfolded them with arms of soft verdure, and seemed to draw them in; and shafts of yellow sunshine rifted the high trees, to aureole the lovely secret lilies that bloomed about the darkly writhing coils of enormous roots. The trees were twisted and knotted, were heavy with centurial incrustations of bark, were humped and misshapen with the growth of unremembered years; but there was an air of antique wisdom about them, together with a tranquil friendliness. Adele exclaimed with delight; and neither she nor Olivier was aware of anything sinister or doubtful in the unison of exquisite beauty and gnarled quaintness which the old forest offered to them." Satyr, The (1931)

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